Writing Tips


Simple Spelling Errors, Grammar Traps and Confusions
by Dr. Poly Syllabic

Below are the most common errors we see in text from all sources, especially in the hasty emails, on blogs, and in twitter feeds. Note that often it's a single vowel that changes the entire meaning of a word.

WRONG: That sweater really
compliments your hair color.
RIGHT: That sweater really
complements your hair color.
WHY: Compliment means "to appreciate (verbally)." Complement means "to enhance."

WRONG: The tickets to the show were
RIGHT: The tickets to the show were
WHY: Complementary means "in addition to." Complimentary means "without payment needed."

WRONG: I was just
laying around doing nothing.
RIGHT: I was just
lying around doing nothing.
WHY: Laying is what a hen does to an egg! Lying is from the root "to lie down". (It also means "not telling the truth.")

WRONG: There are no
acceptions to that rule.
RIGHT: There are no
exceptions to that rule.
WHY: Acceptions is simply incorrect spelling; there is no such word. Exceptions is properly spelled.

WRONG: You must
except what they are saying.
RIGHT: You must
accept what they are saying.
WHY: Except means "all but this one" and accept means "to admit or include."

affect of the storm will be significant.
effect of the storm will be significant.
WHY: Affect is a verb meaning the "action" of something. Effect means the "result or outcome."
Note one exception: in Psychology, "affect" is a noun that means one's emotional state.

The above mistakes are minor on their own, but if you make too many of them it creates a negative impression on your education, professionalism, and overall expertise.

Dr. Poly Syllabic

Editor’s Note: Are there other grammar or spelling issues that grind your gears? Send them to ruth2@revmag.com


Homonyms to Worry About
by Dr. Poly Syllabic

A major challenge for foreign speakers of English is that it is replete with homonyms: words that sound alike, but have entirely different meanings. In fact, homonyms plague nearly everyone who tries to write coherently in English. They are easy to confuse, and hard to spot when proofreading.

The worst examples are shown below. It behooves you to print this list out and keep it close, especially for the person who is your designated office proofreader. Don't have one? Get one! Like a designated driver, a designated proofreader will keep you from making the grammar errors that reduce your credibility and lower client confidence.

Please feel free to send in other examples of homonyms or other annoying grammar errors that confuse appraisers and the public, for us to publish!

Dr. Poly Syllabic


THEY’RE = They are | THEIR = belonging to them | THERE = in a location
Their house is over there; they're replanting the garden.

YOU’RE = you are | YOUR = belonging to you
You're in a great market; it may be time to sell your house!

IT’S = It is | ITS = belonging to it
It's time for the league to change pitchers. Its best new starter is Andrews.

WE’RE = we are | WERE = happening in the past | WHERE = a place/location
We're all going to Disney, where we met last year. When we were there, we stayed in a super hotel.

COULD’VE = could have | COULD OF = simply incorrect. Use “could've,” but only if you really must!
We could've won the lottery, but missed by one number.

LOOSE = not tight | LOSE = not winning
His tie was loose and his hair was mussed, but he still didn't lose the poker hand.

EFFECT = result | AFFECT = act upon
The effect of the recession was to affect all the prices in the neighborhood.*

* Exception, in Psychology, when it is a noun, synonymous with "emotional state": His affect was troubling as it was very flat and unresponsive.


No Spellchecker Will Help You:
How You Can Avoid Text Disasters

by Dr. Poly Syllabic

Dear Friends,
As an editor and technical advisor for the past 30+ years — both for my husband, real estate appraisal author Henry S. Harrison; and our daughter, Kate Lambert Harrison, CEO of GreenBrideGuide.com — I feel uniquely qualified to report on the state of written materials in our ever-more complex computerized era.

It's simple: much of the text material I read each day is incredibly, egregiously, annoyingly flawed!

In this age of spellcheckers and auto-fill, Siri and sexting, writing often becomes a process of "
guesstimation" on the part of our computer helpers, and a current lack of skill on the part of many younger assistants and clerks.

I'm here to tell you that there are moments every day — in your correspondence, preparation of slides and PowerPoint presentations, and that press release your company wants sent out immediately to 2,000 reporters online — when no spellchecker can help you.

Reed this send tense and you'll sea rite of way what I mean.

In short, so many words in English are homonyms that a spellchecker can easily be fooled into misspelling a common word, and the only way I know to catch these errors is a very old trick:

Yes: after you've written and polished that excellent p.r. release,
read it aloud. Read it to a colleague, read it to your six year old daughter, or even to your Golden Retriever -- but do not fail to read it out loud. Hearing what you've written is one tried and true method for catching those "idiot mistakes" that make your company look sloppy.

Bottom line: If you don't think spelling and grammar errors can damage your image, think again.

Dr. Poly Syllabic

Editor’s Note: Dr. Poly Syllabic is a new blog that REV will publish on a semi-annual basis written by our former editor, Ruth Lambert. For grammar or writing questions, feel free to contact Ruth at ruth2@revmag.com.


The NEW Vocabulary Test

Part I

The computer world is moving so swiftly that it's hard to keep up with all the esoteric terms, acronyms and short-names in use. Below is the first part of a new lexicon of words about computers, computing, and the Internet we will be publishing during the next few weeks and months that may help orient some of our readers to this "new world order." For those of us in the 5th, 6th, 7th (or 8th!) decades, these terms can be a challenge!  ...The Editor

Note: This lexicon was compiled using definitions acquired through Google, Wikipedia, and other internet search engines.

404 - an HTTP standard response code meaning that the requested Web page could not be located. Also: Clueless about technology. As in "Joe walked out of that meeting looking completely 404."

Bandwidth - is a bit rate measure of available or consumed data communications resources expressed in bits-per-second or multiples (kilobits-per-second, megabits-per-second, etc.). The rate by which data is transmitted or received dramatically affects the utility of the Internet for users. A "slow" connection can make working on the Internet nearly unendurable.

Bandwidth hog – a derogatory term for a user of an internet connection who uses more bandwith than other users on the network.

Broadband refers to a telecommunications signal of greater bandwidth, in some sense, than another standard or usual signal. The "broader"  the band, the greater the capacity for traffic. Different criteria for "broad" have been applied in different contexts and at different times. 
History: The term's origin is in radio systems engineering, but became popularized after MediaOne adopted it as part of a marketing campaign in 1996 to sell their high speed data access. The slogan was "This is Broadband. This is the Way”. The term has never been formally defined, even though it is widely used, and has been the subject of many policy debates, including in the FCC's  controversial "National Broadband Plan."